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Archive for February, 2011

What Are Your 10 Rules of Life?

Monday, February 28th, 2011
By Christa

Two weeks ago, I asked you to mull over your 10 essentials for living. It’s a wonderful concept to mull over, whether you’re thinking about the 10 things you’d take with you if you had to get out of the house in a hurry or the 10 activities you can’t live without. Today, I thought it might be interesting for us all to choose 10 rules of life. Maybe they’re your 10 green rules. Could be 10 rules for staying upbeat. Or 10 rules of success at work. Leo Tolstoy did it when he was 18, and here’s the Rules of Life he came up with:

Get up early (five o’clock)
Go to bed early (nine to ten o’clock)
Eat little and avoid sweets
Try to do everything by yourself
Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for evry minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater
Keep away from women
Kill desire by work
Be good, but try to let no one know it
Always live less expensively than you might
Change nothing in your style of living even if you become ten times richer

Obviously, this is a very personal exercise, so no need to share. It’s just something fun to think about, and actually penning your 10 rules of life can help you gain a little perspective whether the topic at hand is happiness or green living or creativity. Thoughtful living is one aspect of green living that gets glossed over too often with campaigns against bottled water, but I like to think that most people, if pressed to analyze their lives, will naturally move toward a more eco-friendly existence.

Image: Artist Julien Pacaud

Green Tips for the Homeowner

Friday, February 25th, 2011
By Christa

You may or may not be surprised that little ol’ me had a passing interest in environmental issues before I started writing Green Manolo just a few short months ago. Green topics have actually come up pretty frequently at the other two blogs I author: Manolo for the Home and Manolo for the Brides.

I have been tempted to rehash topics I’ve covered at those blogs of mine, but then I thought that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. The content and, when appropriate, gorgeous images are already there, waiting for your eco-friendly eyes! So here’s a list of links in case you’re looking specifically for environmentally conscious housing:

Green Tips for the Homeowner:


Oil Versus the Whales

Thursday, February 24th, 2011
By Christa

There’s no denying that the world at large is pretty dependent on oil for, well, just about everything. And that means that people are always on the lookout for new places to find it. Just at this moment, the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, which is partly owned by shell, is hunting for oil… in a stretch of the Pacific inhabited by a certain sort of gray whale that’s critically endangered.

They are on the brink of extinction. “Just around 30 female western gray whales of breeding age remain”, says Aleksey Knizhnikov, Oil and Gas Environmental Policy Officer for WWF Russia. “The loss of even a few breeding females could mean the end for the population.”

Their lives are already disrupted by oil exploration and exploitation, and the company already has two platforms in the area. The new one is planned to be near their primary feeding area, one of the only places where the sea is shallow enough to enable mothers to teach their young how to feed on the seabed.

Does anyone else tear up a little when they hear about this sort of thing, or is it just me? It’s not that my brain automatically goes “oil bad, animals good” – I get that we still need oil and that oil has to come from somewhere. But 30 Western North Pacific gray whales of breeding age, all getting disoriented by seismic surveys and then having their only known feeding ground disrupted by the construction of a rig? Bleah.

Eco Prep: Ball and Buck

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
By Christa

Organic, made in the US, and a hit with the preppy crowd? Well, huh. That’s Ball and Buck, a three-year-old clothing and accessory company specializing in, what else? T-shirts.

That would be small-run organic cotton t-shirts manufactured in the U.S by people making a living wage and adorned with hand stitched pockets made out of recycled and vintage fabrics.

Unlike a lot of companies that target a young crowd, Ball and Buck isn’t shy about pushing its ethical and environmental agendas. Its whole shtick is that you can wear the kind of clothes you want to wear without hurting the earth or the people who call it home.

Checked pockets might not be my thing, but I can definitely get behind their message! Have you gotten into clothing recycling? Maybe a little thrifting, a little DIY?

Oyster Reefs In Decline, Gourmands Everywhere Weeping

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
By Christa

I may be a vegetarian now, but I wasn’t always. And back when you could find meat, fish, and fowl on my plate, I loved me some raw oysters. (So much so that thinking about eating them makes me miss my time as a devil-may-care carnivore, actually. *sniff*) Maybe you love oysters, too? In which case, consider nibbling on the wild caught variety now while you can still afford it because a survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the tasty mollusks are disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, 85% of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.

That’s worldwide, not just in my or your backyard.

In fact, if you want to talk about backyards, it’s mine that’s the least affected by pollution, overfishing, and the introduction of non-native invasive species. Seventy-five percent of wild oyster beds can be found in just five locations in North America, according to a study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

“Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent),” said the study. “They are functionally extinct — in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) — particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.”

But of course it’s not just about making sure there are plenty of tasty halfshell platters to go around – particularly from my perspective as someone who doesn’t get to slurp them down anymore – oysters are important to the ocean ecosystem because they filter impurities from seawater. If you’ve heard of declining oyster reefs in your area, do these mollusks in decline a favor and ask your local politician to look into a harvesting hiatus until the oysters have had a chance to rebuild their numbers.

P.S. – Check out today’s post over at Manolo for the Home – Karl Zahn has created a beautiful way to recycle shipping pallets. Too bad all that recycling is so pricey!

Dead Bodies Warming Hard Bodies?

Monday, February 21st, 2011
By Christa

What good are the dead? Some might say none at all. But one English town, a burg of 80,000 known as Redditch, thinks they can be put to use as a nearly-free source of energy. It’s less gruesome than it sounds, really. No one is proposing that vagrants be rounded up as a free source of power or anything like that. The Redditch Council simply wants to warm the local Abbey Stadium Sports Centre, including the heated swimming pool, with reclaimed energy from its neighboring crematorium.

As you can no doubt imagine, there has been plenty of opposition to the plan for the obvious reasons. As one funeral director put it:

I don’t know how comfortable people would feel about the swimming pool being heated due to the death of a loved one, I think it’s a bit strange and eerie.

Huh. Considering that the measure could save the town about $30,000 per year aaaand the fact that the dead who are cremated at the Redditch crematorium will be returning to ashes whether or not the municipal pool benefits, what’s the big deal? It seems like a case of people being squeamish just because the dead are involved. No one is burning the dead *specifically* to supply heat to the sports center. The will be no contact between the dead bodies and the crematorium and the hard bodies at the gym. And reclaimed heat is apparently a good source of heat, too – here in MA, for example, waste heat from a Cambridge power plant will be used to heat buildings in Boston instead of being discharged into the Charles River.

Am I being too blasé about this? Because in my mind, a scheme like this makes perfect sense and seems like a great way to make use of energy that would otherwise just get blown away by the wind.

Congress Spends Big On Bottled Water

Friday, February 18th, 2011
By Christa

By now most of us know that bottled water isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Hello, greenwashing! But I guess Congress didn’t get the message – even after a 2009 hearing of a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee received a report indicating that the EPA rules for tap water are more rigorous than the FDA rules that govern bottled water. In case you missed it, a report from the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International found last month that between April 2009 and March 2010, House lawmakers spent an average of $2,000 per member on Deer Park bottled water.

I’d laugh at the whole thing if I hadn’t paid for some tiny portion of that water with my tax dollars.

DIY Draft Dodger Kit for the Thermostatically Conservative

Thursday, February 17th, 2011
By Christa

Yesterday’s post on indoor air quality in the winter included a single mention of winter drafts, which many green living enthusiasts care bunches about since we’re all apparently nutty about turning down the thermostat. Assuming you’ve nudged down your thermostat as far as it can reasonably go this winter – and what a winter! – there are always a few tricks you can user to stay warm by maximizing the warmth you have!

One old school example is the draft dodger – at its simplest, a humble tube of fabric stuffed with uncooked rice or kitty little or dried beans. It doesn’t have to be humble, however, as this DIY draft dodger kit from Banquet Atelier & Workshop shows:

The kit includes a snake front and back (expertly screen printed in water-based ink on 100% cotton), acrylic paint set with brush, needle, thread, wool felt tongue, stuffing (although you’re going to want to supplement his guts with dried beans, old socks etc), and easy-peasy instructions.

What Are YOU Breathing: Indoor Air Quality In the Winter

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
By Christa

How bad is indoor air pollution in the winter, really? According to some people, it can be pretty bad – as in worse than the pollution in the air outdoors. Think of outdoor air as the baseline, and imagine that everything that’s offgassing or putting out emissions in your home is adding to that. Then add to that the fact that in the battle of the wintertime drafts, we’re blocking out incoming fresh air, aka drafts.

So where’s all this indoor air pollution coming from? Cigarettes, if you’re a smoker. And incense, candles, and cooking. Consumer products releasing formaldehyde fumes and other aldehydes into the air. And sometimes even mold, if you like to keep things moist. Among other things.

None of us in cold weather climates is exempt, so it’s pretty important that we look into ways of cleaning our indoor air when we’re spending so much time breathing it in! Here are five ways to improve indoor air quality in your home for the remainder of this long, chilly winter:

1. When you have a choice, stick to VOC-free paint and organic mattresses and air-friendly, natural versions of things that tend to release nasty gasses in synthetic form. That means rugs and couches and plastic products.

2. Make sure your exhaust fans actually vent out of doors – the air in kitchens and bathrooms can get pretty moist, and that can lead to a buildup of mold. If your fans don’t vent to the outside, consider buying a small dehumidifier if your home tends to retain moisture.

3. Quit smoking! It’s not just bad for the air, it’s also bad for you. Can’t fathom quitting? Then brave the cold and light up outside where the secondhand smoke can dissipate instead of lingering in the air.

4. Make sure combustion appliances, like gas stoves, fireplaces, boilers, and furnaces are working at peak efficiency. That means changing filters, getting regular maintenance done, and keeping appliances clean.

5. Speaking of cleaning, damp dusting and vacuuming – especially with a specialized HEPA filters can go a long way toward clearing the air of allergens and particulates that settle and are disturbed, settle and are disturbed. For keeping air clean, stick to homemade cleansers like these.

Hang some houseplants!

In 1984, NASA senior research scientist Dr. Bill Wolverton tested houseplants for their ability to maintain clean air for future habitable lunar bases. Testing in sealed chambers, Wolverton found that philodendrons and golden pothos were excellent formaldehyde controllers; gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were impressive benzene purgers; pot mums and peace lilies were highly rated for TCE removal. His initial findings suggested that one to three mature plants were enough to improve the air in a 100-cubic-foot area. He also found that it wasn’t just plants doing the clean-up work, but the microbes that were specific to the plants’ roots. Another 1989 NASA study concluded that tested houseplants removed up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air within 24 hours.

P.S. – Yours truly recently posted over at Manolo for the Brides about sustainable wedding trends! If you’re engaged or weddings are just one of your favorite things, check it out.

Could You Choose 10 Essentials?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By Christa

It’s pretty widely agreed that there’s a lot of overlap between the green movement and the minimalist movement. If you don’t have a ton of stuff, you don’t need a ton of space, which means you don’t need to waste a lot of time, money, or or energy heating/cleaning/maintaining/powering/etc. a ton of stuff or space.

Minimalism isn’t necessarily green, just as eco-friendly living doesn’t mean having to live like a monk, but taking a few minutes to consider what you own and why you own it can be plenty green.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits posted about choosing your 10 essentials a la the GQ series – not 10 essential possessions, but rather your 10 essentials for living. What you wear, what inspires you, where you love to be, that favorite food you can’t live without… that sort of thing. And I found the idea to be extremely inspiring.

When you create a list of your 10 essentials, you gain a whole new perspective on all those things that aren’t strictly necessary at all. Turns out there’s a good chance there’s plenty of stuff in your home and in your life that you could get rid of without ever feeling deprived.

What’s on your list of 10 essentials? What have you realized you can live without?

Image: Apartment Therapy

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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